You say you want a resolution
Forgive the takeoff on the Beatles song. You now have had a couple of weeks with your 2024 resolutions.
How is it going? Are you changing your world?
I’m going to suggest that a systems perspective could help with making and sticking with your resolutions. The reason for this is that I believe emotion process is the foundation of most behaviour. And emotional process has a lot to do with level of differentiation and defining self. Using the principles of defining self could help with achieving one’s resolutions.
Resolutions should be about defining self
Defining self starts with how I think about something – how factual and objective am I? How realistic am I? Am I pretending or hoping to be something I’m not? What do I believe about a topic? Where did I get those beliefs from? Do I truly believe them?
In order to accomplish something, you might have to give something else up. How much conviction do you have on this? Who or what could persuade you to change your mind?
One does not change a genuine conviction just to avoid conflict or rejection. It’s not changed to get approval from others. It’s not MADE to get approval from others either. So who are you doing this resolution for? Yourself alone.
You don’t have to justify this resolution to anyone. A principle of defining self is that you just DO what you have conviction for. It’s not about convincing anyone that you are right or justified in doing it. You don’t need a reason that works for others, only one for yourself. You are doing the resolution for yourself based on a thoughtful process that depends a conviction for what you want to do.
Your conviction superpower
Conviction is very important in this process. You are going to come up against emotional pressure to forgo your resolution. You will have to decide which option to choose – stay the course or divert. The brain works on a simple principle of the circuits that fire the most, win the decision. Your conviction circuits have to fire more than the give-up circuits for you to stick by your resolution. You need the emotional “umph” behind the rational thinking to counter the emotional force pushing you to divert from the resolution. It’s a battle of emotions.
If a resolution represents a significant change in your behavior, then you will most likely get push-back from some folks. They will want you to change back or lighten up and not to be too resolute about it all. Especially if others see your change as creating a difference or change in your relationship with them. Others can perceive a change in the time together, what you do together, or how you think about things as a threat to the relationship which they won’t like. Your conviction to stay the course is important. You don’t have to convince them of anything. Let them think what they will. You just stay the course.
Connection is as important as conviction
Defining self is not about doing your own thing and ignoring others. Being differentiated means I can stay connected to others while also holding on to self. It’s not one or the other. Staying connected means one is able to be to present and accounted for in another person’s life. You both know what is going with each other. You can and you are talking about things you are interested in and that are meaningful to you.
For example, let’s say that Pat wants to cut back on his drinking. After reading some of the latest research and talking with people he respects, he’s going to limit himself to two drinks per month. Pat watches sports with friends at a pub several times a month. Drinking has been a regular part of the evening. While Pat is nervous about his friends’ reactions, he has decided not to make a big deal about his resolution. He just has to live his conviction. So he goes to the sports night and has soda and lime. At first, his buddies really tease him about it. They try to get him to drink by buying him drinks. During the second outing, after a few drinks, one guy tells Pat that “you’re not better than us, just because you’re a tee-totaller”. Pat responds “I could agree more”. He doesn’t make any remarks that could come across of trying to change their minds. But he also doesn’t have a drink or two just to appease his friends.
Don’t tell, just do
His partner, Chirs, is another matter. Chris, at first, pushed back quite a bit. Chris thought that if Pat didn’t drink, then Chris couldn’t either. Pat offered maybe Chris should drink a bit more to make up the difference. And that Pat could be the designated driver. Pat was thoughtful about making any comments that could be perceived as “I’m better, or more responsible than you”. He explained to Chris that this was a choice that Pat came to after some research and much thought. And who knows, maybe he will change back at some point. “Think of this as an experiment for now,” said Pat.
Support the conviction with facts
The time Pat spent doing some research and thinking about this helped him build the fact base to support his conviction. This is important. Ideas that come from an impulse that aren’t thought through most likely won’t lead to a conviction that will hold up. Impulse convictions, an oxymoron, will evaporate under the emotional pressure to change back. Reflecting on objective information that supports your resolution helps you stay motivated during challenges.
It’s interesting that resolute and resolution have the same root. Defining self is about becoming more resolute in a belief such that it becomes a conviction that one wants to live by. One does it for themselves, by themselves. It becomes part of how they want to be in the world.
How much conviction have you put into any resolutions you might have?
Instead of good luck, I’ll wish you clear thinking and good effort!
Thank you for your interest in family systems.
Learn more about Bowen family systems theory here.
Watch this video on BASIC SERIES #4 – DIFFERENTIATION OF SELF AND THE I POSITION